Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams will take on nationally-ranked foes this weekend. The men’s team will dividing its efforts, sending its top-6 athletes to the Chile Pepper Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., and the rest of the team to the Penn State National Invitational, in which the women’s team will also race. This is the first time the Red has run in the race hosted by Arkansas, as the team normally elects to send its entire squad to Penn State.
“I wanted to take the road less traveled – this race is a lot of fun. We’ve done the pre-national thing before, but I don’t want the guys to worry. They need to focus on the end of the season,” said distance coach Robert Johnson.
The Chile Pepper Invitational is a 10K course, as opposed to the 5.2 mile course at Penn State.
“The longer race will play better for us. The guys will be able to work together more,” Johnson said.
The 34-team field at the event boasts three of the top-11 teams in the country, along with some very strong individuals. No. 1 Arkansas won last year’s event, and the Razorbacks have a handful of All-Americans in cross-country and track who will be competing. These athletes include senior Josphat Boit, who claimed the individual title last year. No. 6 Arizona and No. 11 Texas-El Paso will also be competing.
Even with so many nationally-ranked teams, the Red has aspirations for a high finish, and has set its sight on a spot in the top-4. Johnson also expects his team to do well individually. “[Senior] Bruce [Hyde] has been fantastic these past few weeks. I think that we will really see him do something great this weekend,” Johnson said.
Junior Brad Baird and sophomore Sage Canaday will also be strong competitors, having already led the Red in early races this season. Junior Ricky Lader, who was sick during the last race, should move back up amongst his teammates. Also traveling to Arkansas will be sophomore Jimmy Wyner and freshman Sam Luff.
“The guys have been doing great in practice. The key this weekend is going to be how well the guys in the four, five, and six spots perform,” Johnson said.
The rest of the Red will run at Penn State, led by senior Bryan Jarrett.
The women finished fifth at the Penn State meet last year, led by Kate Boyles ’05, who finished 12th. The 47-team field includes several nationally-ranked teams, including No. 1 Duke, No. 18 Tennessee, No. 20 Providence – which claimed last year’s team title – and No. 29 Maryland. The Red finished only four points behind Maryland two weeks ago at the Paul Short Invitational.
“This is a very competitive field. There are four nationally-ranked programs, as well as a very large field. There are great individuals who will provide a lot of competition up front,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing.
The women have shown their strength as a team already this season, finishing strong in each race. A solid freshman class has contributed to the success of the team, as several of them have finished consistently in the top-7 for the Red.
The women also have the advantage of being well rested after a reprieve from competition this past weekend.
“Having this weekend off was good, it gave people a chance to get home and relax for the first time this year,” Duesing said. “They have looked good in practice this week. Things should go well.”
Archived article by Erin Garry
Sun Staff Writer